This picture is amazing not only because of all the work that is put into the making of the blankets (I also crochet and knit so I know) but the vast contrast between all the love and thoughts put into the wool squares, between the softness and colors of the yarn compared to the hard, cold, white stone steps and the grandiose Helsinki cathedral.
For me the blankets represent – is a symbol of – the lived compassionate lives of the knitters – the people – and the cathedral what is it a symbol of? Does the church building reflect compassion and love? Not to me at least – even though I can understand that some would call it beautiful and a piece of art what I see is not a welcoming building but I scary, grandiose, clean, non-inviting church (which represents some Christian denominations) and not the compassionate Christianity Jesus spoke of. On the other hand the blankets do, in my view, represent just that kind of human compassion and strive for social justice. I ask myself – why are the churches often so grandiose and uninviting? Why are they not built to reflect Chrsitian simplicity and love?
The blankets on the staps of the church were donated to charity after the yarn bombing happening just like the Mother Teresa blankets are (see below).
Three Finnish organizations, Marttaliitto, Tekstiiliopettajaliitto and Novita, started a campaign in January 2011. Their goal was to crochet 1 000 blankets to cover the stairs of the Helsinki Cathedral and then donate those to families in need. The goal was achieved by Finnish volunteers from all over the country, and the result was nearly 8 000 blankets and a Guinness World Record.
The story of the Mother Teresa blankets is an amazing one and the story is worth its own book. But in short my mother, who worked for the Emmaus organization in Finland for over 5o years, visited (together with my father Rurik Rancken) Emmaus in Copenhagen in 1980.
My mother writes in her book “Äventyret Emmaus*:
“In a corner of the office there was a pile of colorful knitted squares and I curiously asked what they were for. They told me that they were sown together to blankets, which were sent to [Mother Teresa in] Calcutta. What a fun ideas I thought and we decided to put a little notice about the blankets in our information letter to members and next time someone travels from Finland to Denmark we could take them with us”.
When they came home they put a notice in the information letter:
This is something everybody can be a part of.
In every house there are some leftover pieces of yarn, you can knit squares out of these yarn leftover and send the finished squares to Emmaus-Westervik, we will then sow them together to blankets.
The squares should be 18 x 18 cm and preferably knitted from wool yarn. You can also reuse yarn by ripping the it from an old sweater.
Share this idea with your friends!
“This is all the “advertising” we did at Emmaus-Westervik – the rest others did. Now the invasion of squares started and then Anna – a women’s magazine – wrote an article about the blanket project and that made the snowball rolling even faster …. and it is still rolling after 20 years….”.
By 2000 (around the time my mother wrote about the story) Emmaus had received and sent on over 44.000 ready blankets which is around 63 x 44 000= 2 772 000 squares! Mother Teresa’s blankets are still knitted and several thousands of blankets are shipped from Finland to Calcutta every year. The Missionaries of Charity use the blankets in orphanages and charity centers all over the world.
How to knit your own blanket…
- Use thread containing at least 50% wool
- Knit 18cm x 18cm patches using basic knit stitch
- It’s good to have a cardboard template to make sure you end up with equal size patches
- The blanket is sewn or crocheted together alternating the vertical and horizontal stitch
- Adult size blanket: 7 x 9 = 63 patches
- Children size blanket: 5 x 6 = 30 patches
The blankets can be delivered directly to the Missionaries of Charity in Helsinki (Vironkatu 6 A 12, 00170 Helsinki, 093403795).
* The book (in Swedish) can be bought from me or from Emmaus Westervik in Ekenäs.